Sunday, October 30, 2011

Silver Plate to Judge John Vanderbilt - 1852

Welcome to 1852! For some reason this story warranted publication in at least 3 newspapers.

PRESENTATION---UNEXPECTED TOKEN---Judge Vanderbilt, who appeared in our streets yesterday, fresh from his contest with Sen. Schoonhoven, has met with a very unexpected token of regard from the directors of the Coney Island Plank Road, who presented him this morning, through a Committee, (L.D. Cowan & Electus B. Litchfield) a splendid service of silver plate. Mr. Cowan addressed the Senator on the occasion, and he made an appropriate reply. Judge Vanderbilt was the first President of the Company. The workmanship is by W. S. Wood, 367 Broadway. The following inscription is on all the pieces:--
Presented to the
Hon. John Vanderbilt,


--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday, February 17, 1852

A very beautiful service of plate was presented this morning to Hon. John Vanderbilt, by the Coney Island Plank Road Company, through a Committee composed of L. D. Coney and E. D. Litchfield, Esquires. The service consists of four pieces.

--New-York Daily Tribune, February 18, 1852

The New York Times also reports Hon. John Vanderbilt, president of the Coney Island Plank Road Company, was presented with a "service of plate."

--New York Times, February 18, 1852

Sloop Upset and Raft of Logs - 1851

On Sunday a Br. brig hence, while in the Lower Bay, came in contact with sloop Anne Eliza, of Gloucester, loaded with wood ; the sloop immediately sunk ; the crew, however, were saved. The steam tug Jacob Bell reports this morning seeing thes loop ashore at Coney Island and the wood strewed along the beach.

--New-York Daily Tribune, December 23, 1851

I assume no relation...

CAME ASHORE, on Coney Island, on Monday, December 22d, a RAFT, consisting of 27 square Pine Logs. For information respecting them, apply to

Gravesend, Long Island.
d27 1t*

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, December 27, 1851

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Boat Upset - 1851

Oh no; not another water incident!

BOAT UPSET IN CONEY ISLAND COVE.--Yesterday afternoon a small sail boat, containing two gunners named John Witworth and John Morris, was accidentally capsised in the Coney Island Cove, and both the men precipitated into the water.--They clung to the craft, from which they were released shortly after and restored to comfortable quarters on board of a sloop that fortunately was near at hand at the time of the accident.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, October 17, 1851

Finally, a happy ending.

The New York Times had reported the same story with the headline "Boat Upset" on October 18. (direct link)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Another Drowning at Coney Island Point - 1851

Another one???

INQUEST.--An inquest was held by Justice Wright, at Fort Hamilton, on Tuesday afternoon, 2d inst, upon the body of a man who had been found adrift near Coney Island Point. Deceased was apparently 25 years of age, with dark brown hair, and was dressed with plaid pants, white cotton shirt with linen bosom, plaid silk neck handkerchief, pegged shoes, and stockings with elastic garters. The shirt bears the initials O. P. , marked with ink. Verdict, found drowned. The body was interred at Flatbush.
--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, September 3, 1851

Will quote the story below, too, to be just a little less depressing.

We hear it said that the managers of the late orphan benefit, sold upwards of 2,500 tickets.--Among the pieces of the pyrotechnic exhibition was one which emblazoned in fire the following motto.--"We adopt the orphans."
--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, September 3, 1851

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Drowning near Coney Island - 1851

Not the best few days for this blog...

FOUND DROWNED.--On Sunday morning August 10th, a body was discovered floating near the wharf or dock at Brook's Pavilion, Coney Island Point. The coroner being indisposed, Samuel Hubbard Esq., one of the Justices of the Peace of the town of Gravesend was informed of the circumstance, whereupon he proceeded to summon a jury, and went to the place where the body lay. The following facts were elicited during the examination and inquest. The body was that of a female apparently about 25 to 30 years of age. She had on a black silk dress, plain straw bonnet and half slippers. The head and neck were much disfigured probably caused by lying in the water.--There were no perceptible marks of violence about her, excepting a small scratch on the back of each hand. She appeared to have laid in the water from two to four days. The only marks by which she could possibly be identified were a wart on each thumb and one on the forefinger of her right hand. Her body was conveyed to the Kings Co. Hospita. The verdict rendered was "death by drowning."

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, August 11, 1851

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ferry Fire on the Trojan - 1851

Horrible news linked to Coney Island. I'm shocked that men would sleep in ferry boats, even the captain...

THREE MEN BURNT TO DEATH.--The steamboat Trojan, which ran between New York and Coney Island, was burnt to the water's edge early yesterday morning, while lying at the foot of Vestry street, N. R. She was valued at about $18,000, and is fully insured. At the breaking out of the fire, Capt. Joseph N. Rodman, Arthur McNulty, a fireman, Patrick Dougall, a deck hand, another fireman whose name is unknown, and others belonging to the boat were asleep in their births (sic).--The flames spread with such rapidity before the sleepers awoke, that some of them were left with no chance of escape, and horrible to relate, Dougall, McNulty and the unknown fireman were burned with the boat. One Wm. Fuller, also attached to the boat, was missing, but whether he was burned, drowned, or made his escape from the boat, could not be ascertained. THe 5th and 8th ward police were at the scene and rendered every service in their power. Capt. Rodman escaped from the boat after being burned in a dangerous manner. Officer Warlow of the 8th Ward, when the boat was on fire, discovered a trunk on deck which had been broken open, and several hundred dollars strewn about the floor. He gathered up the money and conveyed it to the station house. Yesterday forenoon the bodies of the three deceased men were removed from the wreck, and the coroner notified to hold an inquest. The jury rendered a verdict of death by suffocation and subsequent burns. Patrick Dougall was 19 years of age and born in Albany.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, August 8, 1851

CONEY ISLAND--The CATALINE, we learn, will take the place of the TROJAN to-day, on the Fort Hamilton and Coney Island line. Capt. Rodman, who was severely scorched in the fire, we are pleased to learn, is not seriously injured.

--New-York Daily Tribune, Saturday, August 9, 1851

I had mentioned Captain Rodman at least a couple times. So he piloted ships around Coney Island in 1848, too. At any rate, this tragedy presumably had nothing to do with the captain's work...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Better than Coney Island???

I don't buy it.

[Correspondence of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.]

From a Typo in the Country to the Eagle in Town.

July 25, 1851

DEAR EAGLE :--Since I left Brooklyn I have enjoyed myself tolerably well in the quiet little village of Sayville, on the Island ; a village numbering, I should say, about one hundred houses, and quite a sprinkling of men, women, and of course, children. The business mostly carried on at present is fishing, although every fisherman has a bit of a farm on which he works when the fishing season is over. The crops, however, are in a beautiful condition ; corn expecially. Fruit, I am sorry to say, is rayther scarce.

Most of my time is occupied on the water, fishing and eeling, which I am very fond of. In a good season, like the present, a man goes out in the morning and before sun-down, probably catches one hundred dozen of eels, which he sends to New York. Each fisherman has about twenty or thirty eel pots. Oysters, in season, are very numerous, but this not being the right time, they are not very good ; but I have as many as I want, never theless--of my own catching, too. Clams--of the largest kind--are very plenty, and are firstrate.--Berries--black, blue, and whortle--are very thick; ditto mosquitoes…

I have made two excursions to Fire Island beach, which presents a magnificent prospect. It was here, I believe, that the ship Elizabeth was wrecked a few years ago. I had the pleasure of seeing Smith Oakes, of Fire Island notority (sic); and he is, without doubt, an ugly looking customer.--The beach is a splendid place for bathing, and far preferable to Coney Island. O, it is delightful!--I wonder that it is not a more fashionable place for summer resort. I need not go to the beach to bathe, however, as there is a shore a short distance from where I put up. There are plenty of girls in the house, and, of course, I take them along, just to sweeten the water. How you'll appreciate my taste.

To a person who has lived in the city for a long time, plenty of sources of pleasure and amusement may be afforded. I could not, however, live long here. It does for a short time, but the excitement of the city, is sadly deficient. J.N.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, July 19, 1851

I had no idea whortleberries existed. It sounds like they may be referring to blueberries.

A quick search didn't reveal any particular notoriety as far as Smith Oaks, so I guess the writer may have been merely referring to him as "famous." Volume 69 of The Atlantic Monthly cites Oaks as the one who offered the most assistance regarding the wreck.

From Sayville's website it still looks kind of like a small town, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pic-nic news

Of mild interest...another case of taking the Coney Island boat to go elsewhere!

THE LINDEN SOCIETY.--A week ago to-day, the Linden Literary Society had a delightful pic-nic, which we have not seen mentioned in any of the papers. They started for Cedar Grove on Staten Island, but by some failure in the boat, were obliged to change their direction at a short notice. Taking the Coney Island boat at 10 o'clock, they were landed at Fort Hamilton, and conveyed thence to the pic-nic woods, about a mile distant, where they spent the day in recreative sports, By the way this is one of the most pleasantest and most accessible spots for a summer party anywhere to be found. The woods are beautiful, and a small pic-nic hotel has been erected in them for the convenience of parties ; so that it has all the needful fixtures, while a fresh ocean breeze banishes every idea of summer heat. It is a charming place.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, July 19, 1851

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Celebration of the Fourth

The Celebration of the Fourth.

The Fourth of July was celebrated this year with more spirit and enthusiasm than our city has witnessed for many years, if ever before. The public gave themselves up to the enjoyment of the holiday, and made it one long, uproarious and glorious jubilee, from sunrise until midnight. The quantity of powder burnt was most astonishing, and at night the city was on a blaze from one end to the other with rockets and Roman candles. From the appearance of the streets Saturday morning, we would suppose there had been a heavy shower of red Chinese paper.

The day was made expressly for the occasion. There had been rains during the night, and a little before daybreak a violent wind arose, bringing on a black thunder-cloud, which in a few minutes washed and swept the streets till they fairly shone when the sun rose. The sky was brilliantly clear and fresh, and the trees, the buildings and the flags sparkled and glittered in its light. At an early hour crowds began to pour in from the country, and by ten o'clock the streets were crowded with visitors. Several hundred Canadians arrived on Thursday afternoon, to witness the celebration. Notwithstanding the tens of thousands of our own citizens who took advantage of the day to join in the excursions to the country, their place was more than made up by the influx of visitors from without.

At about half-past four the usual salute was fired from the Battery, by the Veteran Artillery, when somewhat over a thousand persons were present….

The veterans of the war of 1812 assembled in the Park early in the morning, where they attracted a great deal of attention. They were attired in citizen's costume, except the officers, and wore white belts, with short swords…

Several boats were chartered for Sandy Hook, Yonkers, Coney Island, Amboy, Fort Hamilton and elsewhere, and all were fully freighted with citizens of every age, size and sex. Many of the Military, who from the admirable arrangements of their Major-General, were enabled to join their families after 12 o'clock, also went upon excursions, and appeared highly gratified at being afforded the opportunity, which was new to them upon a Fourth of July celebration…

--New-York Daily Tribune, July 7, 1851

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Plank Road News

The Plank Road from Brooklyn to Coney Island has been finished to within two miles of the latter place.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, May 30, 1851

I don't know if I would've used the word "finished" there, but I suppose it was a milestone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coney Island Mention

The story's not too much about Coney, but it's interesting that people going to Europe from New York would notice Coney Island. It reminds me a little bit of my one and (to date) only trip to New York City in 2007....I spotted the Luna Park housing and I think the Parachute Jump from the plane, and I was so excited! (It was a whirlwind trip, 3 or 4 nights, and we spent a good portion of one day on Coney.)

Crossing the Atlantic.
Editorial Correspondence of the Tribune.
LIVERPOOL, (Eng) Monday, April 28, 1851

The leaden skies, the chilly rain, the general out-door aspect and prospect of discomfort prevailing in New-York when our good steamship BALTIC cast loose from her dock at noon on the 16th inst, were not particularly calculated to inspire and exhilarate the goodly number who were then bidding adieu for months at least to home, country and friends…Before we had passed Coney Island, it was abundantly certain that our freshening breeze bailed directly from Labrador and the icebergs beyond, and had no idea of changing its quarters. By the time we were fairly outside of Sandy Hook we were struggling with as uncomfortable and damaging a cross sea as had ever enlarged my slender nautical experience…

--New-York Daily Tribune, May 12, 1851

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Mr. Rogers' Losses

Could the first incarnation of the Oceanic House have been the first major loss by fire on Coney Island? And this second fire may be the third (there was a fire in 1850).

OCEANIC HOUSE.--We regret to learn that Mr. Rogers, the tenant of this splendid house at Coney Island, which was lately dbstroyed (sic) by fire, will lose about eight thousand dollars, being thrown out of business and deprived of his summer's work. He has lost every thing that he had, having moved his family there with all his furniture in expectation of an early opening of the season, and a rich harvest, in consequence of the recent construction of the Plank Road.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, April 28, 1851

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Oceanic House Burns - 1851

FIRE AT CONEY ISLAND.--We regret to learn that the beautiful and commodious hotel, known as the "Oceanic House," on Coney Island, was entirely destroyed by fire, yesterday morning.--The cause of the catastrophe is supposed to have been a defect in one of the chimnies. The flames spread with such fearful rapidity, that all attempts to extinguish them were unavailing ; and the greater portion of the elegant furniture, including the silver plate and splendid chandeliers, were consumed with the building. The tide was so high that the building had to be reached by means of boats. Cropsey's hotel was several times on fire, and it was feared would also fall a prey ; but the great exertions of the Coney Islanders happily preserved it. We are not informed whether the property was insured, but suppose it was, partially at least. This disaster will be a matter of regret to many, as the comforts of the "Oceanic" were of a superior order.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, April 18, 1851

It was only 1848 that the Oceanic House appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. This page notes the Oceanic House burned after its first season, then was rebuilt...then burned again.

CONEY ISLAND.--While the fire was raging in the large building called the Oceanic house, at Coney Island, yesterday morning, the water was very high and boisterous, and the forked flames seemed to shoot up out of the bosom of old ocean; the building being accessible only by boats. Cropsey's house was several times on fire, but fortunately the flames were got under before they reached the bounds of control. The observatory which stands on the high ground in front of Wychoff's (sic), was swept off by the unparallelled (sic) rise of the ocean, which usurped complete dominion over Gil Davis's domain.

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, April 18, 1851

I think they are referring to Wyckoff's Hotel.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Coney Island Point City?

With the references to the beloved Governor Gil Davis (who the Brooklyn Daily Eagle usually pokes fun at) and the Coney Island Institute (which the Brooklyn Daily Eagle always seems to mock), I imagine this isn't an entirely serious endeavor.

ANOTHER CITY.--A mass meeting of the citizens of Coney Island and its dependencies is to be held to petition the Legislature for an act of incorporation making Coney Island Point a city. Congress will also be petitioned to make it a port of entry, in consideration of the commercial facilities offered by the majestic Creek. Governor Gil Davis will preside, and members of the Coney Island Institute will attend in a body. This agitation, it is more than hinted, has been produced by the recent proceedings in this neighborhood.--The city of Coney Island Point will doubtless prove a formidable rival to the city of Williamsburgh. Let the old "kingdom" look to its laurels. Gil Davis is in the field, and if his "mad is up," there will be something "broke," or we're mistaken!

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Thursday, April 17, 1851

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Governor Gil Davis is still around!

THE ROAD.--There was a large amount of carriage riding enjoyed yesterday, on our beautiful Long Island roads. The country is clothing itself, like our fashionable belles, in a garb of gay colors, green being the predominant hue, in all its various shades ; and already many of the trees are putting forth their fragrant blossoms. Several members of the Coney Island Institute ventured down as far as the Bridge, but were prevented from crossing over to the territory sacred to clams and Governor Gil Davis, by the uncongenial breezes which met them at the causeway. A great many of the "fast 'uns" were out, too, in all their pride; and all the roads were in such a fine condition, that anything outside of 2:45 couldn't shine. The most of these took the road to John I.'s, and there was the tallest kind of rattling over the plank track.--"He-i-g-h! Why don't you go 'long ! S-a-a-y !"

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Monday, April 14, 1851

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Coney Island Bass and Free Lunch

I remember how funny I thought it was in the 1990s when bars out here started calling themselves "The Library" and "The Office" and the like, so that you could go drinking and tell others you would be "late at the library." But evidently giving bars sophisticated names dates back to at least the 1850s.

The Museum Saloon cannot be beaten nor "Coney Island Bass," either of which the citizens of Brooklyn can have ocular demonstration TO-MORROW, April 9th, (from 11 A M to 1 P M,) as upon that day the magnificent BASS will be served up as a

The Proprietor of the Saloon takes this opportunity of thanking his numerous friends and patrons for their very liberal support, and to inform them that he is about to remove the business of the Museum Saloon to the opposite corner above Orange and Fulton streets, where he hopes by strict attention to business, and a careful selection of Wines, Liquors, Segars, and V ands (?), the best the market can supply, to secure a continuation of their kindness.

PLATT, the Prince of Bar-Keepers, and a good fellow, will preside, and both astonish and tickle their pallats at the same time. ap8 lt

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Tuesday, April 8, 1851

A different keeper, Herman R. Howlett, was arrested in September 1852 for violating the "Sunday Ordinance."

There are a couple maps at the Brooklyn Genealogy Information Page. The 1855 fire map is disorienting unless you flip the map so the compass faces north. Though a touch blurrier, the 1866 map is easier to follow and seems to match the current one.

It looks to me like the location would probably be as below....but I've never lived in New York, sadly.

View Larger Map

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Elections - 1851

Town Elections.
GRAVESEND, April 1st, 1851.

EDITOR EAGLE :--The local election has just terminated in the election of the following officers, viz:--

Supervisor--Barnardus Ryder, (Whig.)
Town Clerk--Nicholas Stillwell, (Dem.)
Assessor--Stephen N. Stillwell, (Whig.)…

Commissioners for leasing "Coney Island" Common Lands--Barnardus J. Ryder, Stephen N. Stillwell, Jaques J. Stillwell, Jacobus Lake, Jr., Nicholas Johnson, (Whigs)...

--Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, April 2, 1851

You can read a tiny bit about leasing Coney's "common lands" in Charles Denson's Coney Island: Lost and Found.

I assume these Stillwells were part of the Stillwell family from whence Stillwell Avenue gets its name.